BOYS OF THE BLAXPLOTATION ERA:
Fred Williamson was a gorgeous
specimen of a man who started off playing pro football for the Kansas City Chiefs
and the Oakland Raiders. He would later make the transition to acting. He turned
a lot of people off with his conceit and arrogance, he had a ‘Kanye’ type
of attitude and liked to toot his own horn but that didn’t stop Williamson from
having a very successful film career, he starred in several hit films and he
was one of the few blacks to live in a Malibu beach house. At this time, Williamson lived with three women. He was also a savvy businessman who negotiated
distribution deals for several of his movies at film festivals. This feat was
unheard of for African-Americans in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Williamson made
six to seven figures annually during his peak as an actor. Little known fact:
Williamson was also a successful architect who designed the Contra Costa County
courthouse in Northern California. Fred Williamson currently lives quite comfortably
in Southern California.
Calvin Lockhart came here from
Jamaica. His looks garnered so much attention when he arrived in Hollywood;
he became uncomfortable and tried to disfigure his face with scissors until
a friend told him to enjoy what God had blessed him with. Lockhart was beautiful-with long lashes, smooth chocolate skin, snow white teeth and his hair was naturally curly
when he cut it down. Lockhart co-starred in a
series of successful films with Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier but he wasn’t
just another pretty face. He also owned a profitable construction company when
he wasn’t marrying rich socialites. He currently relaxes by traveling the world
attending jazz festivals.
Jim Kelly starred in several
black martial arts films in the seventies and became an icon in the black community.
I had the pleasure of meeting him on numerous occasions, mainly at tennis tournaments
that he was participating in. I remember him driving up to one of the tournaments
in a convertible Porsche Carrera with beautiful bronze skin. He was very
approachable and nice. After his career cooled off, he turned to real estate and eventually
owned his own tennis club. His favorite films remain "Enter The Dragon,"
and “Black Belt Jones," which co-starred Gloria Hendry. She
made headlines when it was disclosed that Elizabeth Taylor’s ex-husband
Richard Burton was allegedly paying for her son to attend one of the most
expensive boarding schools in this country. Kelly reveals that he and Bruce
Lee were going to do a film after ‘Game Of Death,’ but Lee died before they
worked on the project. He adds, he was scheduled to do a film with
Bruce Lee’s son Brandon, but he died before they could start work on the film.
In 2004, Kelly appeared in a Nike commercial “Chamber Of Fear” starring
LeBron James. Today, Jim Kelly is a professional tennis coach who resides
in Southern California.
Although Clifton Davis didn’t
star in one blaxploitation movie, he appeared in a hit show during the era,
“That’s My Momma.” He also dated Melba Moore during this time and he was flying
high as a successful songwriter and producer who penned the hit ‘Never Can Say
Goodbye,’ for the Jackson 5. Davis was very good looking but behind the fame, he was allegedly a alcoholic on drugs with
suicidal thoughts. Allegedly, his brother called when he was once contemplating suicide, saving his life. Davis would turn his
life around and become a man of the cloth and do motivational speaking. A few
years ago, I heard a disturbing story that was never confirmed. Allegedly, Davis’
son was beaten by white youths for dating a white girl; he was hospitalized
with serious injuries but made a complete recovery.
Blaxploitation actress Pam
Grier is the only black star from that era who earns a royalty check each time
one of her movies is rented.